ER Editor: Indeed, why isn’t Israel more focused on the Hamas leaders? Isn’t Hamas supposed to be the problem? Who in the Israeli govt left the Gaza wall unattended for up to 7 hours on October 7? Berenson could go much further but seems to buy into the ‘atrocity’ line. But his question is a starting point.
Oh look, Qatar just happens to be the mediator between Hamas and Israel in getting hostages released —
Readers may be interested in this piece from earlier this month — Who is Ismail Haniyeh? Senior Hamas leader who leads a lavish lifestyle in Qatar
Why isn’t Israel more focused on the Hamas leaders in Qatar?
Hamas committed crimes against humanity – not Jews, humanity – on Oct. 7. Why are its top officials living in luxury in Qatar’s skyscrapers and villas?
Osama bin Laden was Saudi. Not Afghan.
But after bin Laden planned the Sept. 11 attacks from camps in Afghanistan, no one doubted the United States could demand Afghanistan’s Taliban government evict him – and attack Afghanistan if the Talibs refused.
The leaders of Hamas are Palestinian. Not Qatari.
Yet two weeks after a Hamas attack on Israel that in its barbarity dwarfed Sept. 11 (ER: so claim the Israelis), they continue to live in luxury in Qatar, a tiny Persian Gulf city-state.
As it prepares to invade the Gaza Strip, home to the Hamas fighters who slaughtered over 1,400 Israeli civilians, Israel seems to have forgotten its claim on Qatar, home to the men behind that slaughter.
In a conflict that is both necessary and has no good answers, focusing pressure on Qatar and attacking Hamas’s leaders there directly may be Israel’s cleanest short-term play, giving it the best hope of holding the moral high ground.
(Why? And how might Israel handle Qatar? Answers below the paywall.)
(Welcome to Qatar, American servicemen and – ladies. You’ll enjoy the pleasant 130-degree desert heat, the camels, and the proximity to one of the world’s most vicious terrorist groups!)
A thumb-shaped peninsula 40 miles wide and 100 miles long, Qatar has 2.7 million residents, but only 315,000 citizens, about 1/25000th of the world’s population. It also has 11 percent of the world’s proven natural gas reserves, giving it hydrocarbons – and money – to burn.
Like Kuwait and other super-rich ministates of the Gulf, Qatar’s main preoccupation is its continued existence. For a generation, its leaders have walked a fine line, trying to convince its neighbors that it can play the role of a semi-honest broker in the Muslim world. Qatar is Sunni Muslim, but it works with Iran, which is Shia, as well as the Taliban in Afghanistan, who are hardline Sunni.
Qatar has also made itself a crucial ally to the American military by hosting a huge American air field, the Al Udeid Air Base. With over 11,000 airmen and soldiers, Al Udeid has become the largest United States military installation in the Middle East.
Amazingly, Qatar built its relationship with the United States even as it actively supported Hamas and other Islamist terror groups.
To some extent, Qatar has spent the last 20 years playing the same game Saudi Arabia once did. It funds terror groups (always outside its borders, of course) to keep its Muslim bonafides, while at the same time helping the United States knock them down.
The Saudis realized the limits of these schemes after Sept. 11, and Qatar’s support for radical Islam and its relationship with Iran grew to frustrate Saudi Arabia so deeply that in 2017 it blockaded Qatar. But the Saudis never invaded – how could they, given the huge American base 20 miles from central Doha? – and in 2021 they dropped the blockade.
But of all the games Qatar played, helping Hamas was in some ways the lowest risk.
Arab and Muslim countries have little choice but to support Palestinians against Israel. And under Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, Israel itself allowed Qatar to funnel money to Hamas for most of the last decade.
Netanyahu knew that as long as Hamas – whose charter demands the destruction of Israel – controlled Gaza, Israel would not face serious pressure to make peace with Palestinians. His plan was to keep life in Gaza barely tolerable as Israel continued to prosper and moved settlers into the other Palestinian territories West Bank (and negotiate a broader peace with other Arab countries).
The slaughter of Oct. 7 – in which Hamas terrorists killed the equivalent of 50,000 Americans – has blown up Netanyahu’s cynical scheme. (I know some conservative and Israeli readers complain about this framing of the situation, but the truth is what it is.)
(Things that make you go boom)
So, no, Israel can no longer live with Hamas. It must destroy the group, or die trying.
But as Israel tries, it must ensure that the world doesn’t entirely turn against it.
And it must at least give the civilians of Gaza a chance to leave Hamas behind. Not that they will, necessarily. They may hate Jews more than they love life. Then again, they may not.
Part of the answer to those puzzles lies in Qatar. Israel must keep the focus on the atrocities of Oct. 7, the atrocities that started this war, and on the men behind them.
It must demand that Qatar no longer harbor the leadership of Hamas – Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas political chief, and the rest of the officials who, directly or indirectly, ordered the beheadings and ritual executions and slaughter of more than 1,000 people.
Haniyeh and the rest can take their chances in Gaza with the people they claim to represent. (Israel should even guarantee their safe passage.) They can turn themselves in and try the International Civilian Court. Or they can submit directly to Israeli justice, the way that Adolf Eichmann and other Nazis did in the decades after the Nuremberg courts closed.
Whatever choice they make, they’ll have more of a chance than the Jews their men slaughtered two weeks ago.
Bibi Netanyahu is in a bad position to make this demand. Doing so will throw the spotlight on the way he worked with Qatar to help Hamas. But he must, and if he will not, the Israeli government must find a leader who can.
Of course, Qatar will not agree to those conditions (though if the United States puts enough pressure on it, it might tell the Hamas leadership to head across the Gulf to Iran – a step that Haniyeh would surely prefer not to take as it would make Hamas even more dependent on Iran).
But simply by asking, Israel will put the spotlight on the atrocities, the men who ordered them, and the regimes that support those men. And it will also put Qatar on public notice that it intends to assassinate every leader of Hamas it can find, and that if Qatar will not evict them Qatar’s own civilians will be at risk.
Those actions wouldn’t be unethical, much less illegal. They are exactly the tack the United States took in Afghanistan 22 years ago.
Lie down with terrorists, wake up dead.
Featured image source: https://dohanews.co/qatar-hospitality-industry-to-reach-1-6bn-by-2022-report/
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